#095: Mastery Development & NESTRE – 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End Julius Thomas (TYR Wodapalooza 2023 Series)

Thursday March 16, 2023

Whole health requires a balance of physical, mental, and emotional strength; but which of these buckets do we focus on the most? In this Saturday sunset conversation live from TYR Wodapalooza,  Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff sit down with 2-time NFL Pro Bowl Tight End Julius Thomas to talk about his journey from the football field to entrepreneurship to a PhD in Psychology.

Julius shares his three buckets of wellness along with his Five Keys to Success: Commitment, Discipline, Guidance, Quality of Support and Resilience. He shares the importance of training your brain just like we train our bodies for elite performance; and how his new app NESTRE Health and Performance is improving the cognitive capability of leaders at every age. Julius also discusses his journey in building Mastery Development where he coaches others to follow their dreams and take action no matter the challenge.

Listen to the podcast here


Mastery Development & NESTRE – 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End Julius Thomas (TYR Wodapalooza 2023 Series)

Day three in Wodapalooza. Julius Thomas, welcome to the Jedburgh Podcast.


Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here with you guys. Let’s talk a little bit about health and fitness.

We have so much to talk about. We’ve been planning this for a bit of time and we’ve covered so many things. You’re a two-time Pro Bowl tight end, drafted by Denver, played for Miami, played for Jacksonville, and has transitioned out of the NFL, which we’re going to talk about. Now you’re getting your PhD in Psychology, moving into entrepreneurism, building your own business of mastery development, and building an app to train the brain, which I want to talk about, but so many different things.TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

We talk about moving our careers forward, and when we think about the Jedburghs and the things they were doing back in World War II, it was always about getting better. How do we find more? How do we do more? Your story is one of those. Jessie’s story is one of those that we talked about before, and we’re going to hit it off.

I’m excited. It’s a constant commitment to getting better. It’s improving and finding what you can do. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. Now I’m learning it and I’m getting the academic side of how you help push a person to these new heights and levels. How do you refine purpose so that you’re ready to climb the next mountain and find that next challenge? We’ll get into all the things I’m doing, but thank you guys so much. I’m looking forward to it.

It’s your first time to Wodapalooza, too.

Yes, first time. I’m a big fan of CrossFit. I personally don’t do it much. I got some injuries that make it a little bit difficult, but anytime I see it on Netflix, I love watching people compete and I have so much respect for people that can do things I can’t do. The courage that it takes to do these exercises at this level of intensity at these loads is pretty amazing.

We’ve been impressed for the last couple of days. We walked around and took a look at some of the events going on. You come from a place where we have the most elite athletes that we’ve seen in so many ways on the planet. You play tight end, but I think about defensive backs all the time. You could argue with me maybe, but I do think about them because of the reactionary instinct that they have to have. That’s what I’ll give them.

The only thing we give to the defensive back.

That’s your adversary but when you walk around here and you look at these athletes, what does come to your mind? What do you see when you see so many of them out there competing?

When you spend so much time around sports and you spend so much of your life training, you can have respect for the level of difficulty, what that sport is like, and what it demands of a person. I think a lot about upper body strength. These guys and women are doing rep after rep. I’ve never done a muscle up. I know so many great athletes that have never done a muscle up.

If you start to think about overhead squats, it’s hard to do a front squat with a lot of weight. In an overhead squat, the core strength and stability that you need. Let’s talk about endurance. I played basketball in college and we could run all day, but it’s another thing to be able to squat, run, and bike all day. It’s amazing. These are terrific athletes and I have a lot of respect for what they do.

You talked about college basketball. That’s where it started. You were a two-sport athlete in basketball and football. Talk for a second about those early years. Jessie always likes to get into the early years about where it all started from, but two-sport athletes and then you had to make a choice. Talk about what you learned about operating and performing at an elite level when you had to balance these two sports.

Can I go a little before that? I saw a story online about how you would get to school an hour and a half early to practice in the gym by yourself shooting hoops.

One of the things that I’m able to appreciate is as you grow and as you get better in high-performance environments, sometimes the environments teach you things that you add over time. I think about the player I was in high school when I was playing basketball and you show up to college and now, there’s this whole different environment.

You’ve got a higher level of competition and you’ve now increased demands, but you’re trying to find a way to get on the court. You didn’t go to college to watch everybody play basketball. I’ve had my times of having to sit on the bench and watch people play, but then you’re not satisfied with that, then there’s something inside of you. I call it this drive to succeed.

The circumstances have changed, but I’m not going to find myself in a position I don’t want to be in for very long. I’m going to do what it takes to be able to make the impact that I want to have in that place. If you got to get to the gym an hour and a half early to work on layups, shooting, and all those other little intrinsic aspects of the game, that’s what you have to do.

I spent so much of my life trying to perfect this craft. I think about mastery, and that’s what a lot of high-performance people have in common. They’re trying to master what they do and constantly talking to people, trying to find ways, watching videos, taking things that other people are doing well, and incorporating that into what they do. They keep building themselves.

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“That’s what a lot of high performing people have in common. They’re trying to master what they do.”

That’s what I had to do when I was playing basketball. It was like, “You got to work on ball handling. You got to work on shooting. You got to work on your touch in and around the rim, but do what to do in the right situations?” Some of that takes time and experience, but there’s so much we can do to improve the way we’re doing things like having that drive and getting to the gym early and putting the work in. It was something that was required for me to be able to reach the new standard.

Was it that you loved basketball so much, or was it more about the drive to mastery of something?

I loved it to a degree. I don’t think I loved it as much as some of my teammates did, but I don’t like to fail. If I’m trying to play in the game and the coach is like, “You’re not good enough yet to play,” you got to feel that emotion that comes up. Is it frustration? Is it sadness? Are you angry? A lot of the time, I’m angry. If I’m not able to get out there and compete, I’m going to do what I have to do on my end. I had a lot of rough times that freshman year sitting down at the end of the bench saying, “I should be playing.”

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“I just don’t like to fail.”

You can say, “I should be playing long enough,” but then you got to prove why you need to be out there. Once you prove why you got to be out there, you got to make sure they never take you out. That’s what I was constantly trying to do. Make improvements to my game and how I showed up on a day-to-day basis so that I could play in a game and I could spend more time out there on the floor and less time sitting.

You had to make a choice. Why choose football over basketball at the end of college?

My story was unique because the choice happened to me. I got to college and I was like, “I regretted not playing football in high school.” I went to the football coach and I was like, “I want to go play a receiver.” He is like, “We never say no to 6’5 receivers. You’re already on scholarship going out.” My coach at that time looks at me and he goes, “You’re not here to play football. You’re here to play forward.” I was like, “It was worth a shot.” I’ll never forget there was an assistant coach who was telling me, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but if you don’t redshirt, you’ll have an extra year of eligibility. You could always use that to play football.”

I kept that in the back of my mind and I would tell people, “I’m going to play football one day.” My basketball teammates were like, “You’re crazy. You didn’t even play football in high school.” The football guys were like, “What do you mean? You think you could come out here and be a good football player?” I played four years of basketball and was able to go to two NCAA tournaments. Most wins in the highest field goal percentage in school history but I still had that inner desire to play the game of football. I thought I would be good at it. When I graduated, I came back to school. I had six months of eligibility left, and I was like, “I’m going to try to play football.”

I showed up to spring practice with the football team and had to find a way to make a new career for myself. Starting at the absolute bottom was a challenge for me. I went from being a senior captain in basketball to as novice as it gets in football. I hadn’t played in eight years, but I had a vision and I was determined to give it my best shot. I scraped and clawed my way to getting drafted eleven months later in the fourth round of the Denver.

That’s so wild. When you’re so far behind starting new, what tools did you use? How did you catch up? What actions did you have to take?TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

I talked a lot about commitment. Commitment is when you got to put into action all those things that you were saying. I’ll never forget. It was like a story around town. There’s a guy from the news and he comes out there and he goes, “Julius, you’ve had a great career here at Portland State. Now you’re coming to play football.” The guy takes a mic and puts it in my face. He says, “Do you actually think you’re going to get to play?” That’s one of those moments. I’m a competitor. I’m fired up about trying to achieve the things I set my mind to. I was PC and I hit him with the public relations, “When I come out here, I’m going to give it my best.”

In my head, I was like, “You damn right I’m going to play and I’m coming here because I want to be in the NFL one day.” I kept that to myself and it was the worst two weeks ever. It’s important to share because people look and they go, “You got this success.” They think success is always this smooth path. I tell people, “No. I started from the bottom and had to make it to the top. It’s several things now. It’s always a climb like getting over a mountain.” In those first two weeks, the fourth-string defensive end was kicking my ass. I was out there struggling. I remember I called my dad and I was like, “Dad, I don’t know if I made the right decision but I’m going to give it my best and I’m going to play it a little bit longer.”

I had all those people in my ear saying, “Stop. Go back to the gym. It’s right across the field. Go do what you’re good at doing. Go play basketball overseas.” I said, “Let me stick this out.” I remember my first catch in practice. I’ll never forget the play was called 61 Y Dragon. The offensive coordinator looks at me and goes, “Come here. We’re going to throw you the ball and see what you can do.” It’s at the end of practice and it’s a 5-yard crossing route. It’s the easiest route for the beginner. You have a basketball player that’s sliding around the football field and cleats like Bambi on Ice. I’m like, “I’m finally going to get the ball.” I remember running, I’m looking, I see the quarterback, and he throws the ball.TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

When the ball hit my hands, all I could think about was the sprint. I take off and I’m running down the field and there goes one backer run by that guy. Here’s the DB run by that guy. The next thing, I’m standing in the end zone and there was a hush over the entire practice field. Everybody was like, “What happened?” I got one pass that day and then the next day, practice is in and the offensive quarter goes, “We’re going to throw you the ball again.”

In his mind, it was probably like, “What if that’s a fluke? That can’t happen twice.” He calls the same play, 61 Y Dragon, and it happens again. There I go again. There’s the linebacker and the DB, and I’m standing in the end zone. Everybody realized, “He’s got some potential,” but I’ve had so far to go before I was ever going to become a player in the NFL.

I did this thing in my mind. I was like, “Everybody has been doing this longer. I need more reps. I got to catch up.” That summer after spring practice ended, I got every quarterback’s phone number on the roster, the starter, 2nd string, 3rd string, 4th string, and the guy that played safety the next year. Every single morning, I don’t care if it was raining or the most beautiful day and all my boys were going down the water to hang out, I’d call the quarterback, start with the starter, and I would say, “Are you free? I want to run routes.” “I’ll be there,” with the 2nd string and 3rd string sometimes.

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“Sometimes you gotta get laughed at to get to where you’re going.”

Guys would stand there and they would laugh at me. The guys would heckle me because we all went to school together and they’re like, “Julius, get this up. You’re terrible.” That’s when I realized that sometimes you got to get laughed at to get to where you’re going because I know I’m going to get the last laugh in the end because of how committed I am. I did that every single day of the entire summer. Lo and behold, I got pretty good at running routes because the reps came in and then I ended up being an all-conference tight end that year.

The rest was history as far as making it to the NFL. It was a challenge, but I was always trying to find ways to immerse myself in what I was doing because that’s the only way you’re going to catch up. These people have been doing this for years. You could have all the potential in the world, which my tight-end coach in Denver told me, “That’s a French word that means you haven’t done shit yet. You’ve got to do something with it.” For me, it’s day after day, you keep coming and you’re relentless about the vision you set for yourself. You don’t stop until you get it.

[bctt tweet=”Day after day, keep coming and be relentless about the vision you set for yourself. Don’t stop until you get it.” username=”talentwargroup”]

It’s an important point because people think about the draft. For me, it’s selection for special forces. Jessie and I in the last couple of days have talked a lot about the call you get from the producers at American Ninja Warrior to bring you back. To a lot of people, that’s almost a culminating event like, “It happened. I got the call, I went to the selection, I made it, and I got the job.” That’s the start. You haven’t done anything yet. You got a seat at the table, and now every single day, you have to earn your spot there or you’re out.

It’s the scariest part. It’s scary inside when you’ve been striving for something and then you get it because now you’re stepping into another echelon and another environment of this is about to get harder. I’ll never forget that first training camp after playing football for fourteen months. I’m putting my chest pads on and everybody is telling me about this guy named Brian Dawkins, one of the baddest safeties there are. They’re like, “He’s going to try and fuck you up. The last tight end that we drafted last year hit him so hard. I don’t think the guy ever wanted to play football again. Be careful out there.”

You’re thinking it is cool to get drafted and to tell everybody I’m in the NFL, but now it’s time to put up or shut up. Now you’ve moved into another environment that got that much harder like when I went from high school basketball to college. Now you got to earn it again. Now you’ve got all this pressure, you’ve got all your feelings surrounded about how you feel about this pressure, and now you have a choice. Life gives you a choice. Here you are. This is what you worked for and what you asked for.

Now I demand more of you and you can overcome or not. When you get to do the things that you guys have done and the things that I’ve done, these circumstances break people. They take people that believed in themselves their whole lives and they make them feel like, “I’m a failure now. I couldn’t cut it at that level.” Life is always presenting you with something that’s so difficult. It’s outside of your reach and life goes, “We’re going to see what you’re about. We’ll see what you do with this opportunity.”

It’s so common for people to be told that they’re not good enough at something or to try something new and realize that they’re not good at it. Take that as truth and understand, “This isn’t for me.” I love how you immerse yourself in something new and you know, “I’m not good at this yet because I haven’t done it before. Here are all the things that I’m going to need to do to catch up.”

You become good because not, you don’t believe you do the research to find what you need to do to get there. It’s so important for people to know and see that you were bad at one point and this is how hard you had to work to get there and how amazing it is to have achieved it. Now you go to the next level where you’re going to feel like you suck again and then grow.

That’s exactly how. I couldn’t say it better myself. I tell everybody, “I believe in you.” They say that we live in a world where we’re low on hope. There are a lot of people waking up every day wondering, “Can I do it?” I tell them, “I believe in you.” I know you can do it because the number one thing I know is it doesn’t matter where you start. I don’t care what level you’re coming in at.

You show up and you’re humble enough to find the answers of how to get better and then to go do it, and you repeat it. Time on a task over and over. Never get sick of it. Keep going. You’re going to take your level from wherever you are to sky-high if you have the humility to ask the people around you what it is you need to do to get better and then take action because nothing is going to happen if you don’t take action.

[bctt tweet=”Be humble enough to find the answers of how to get better, and then to go do it and repeat it.” username=”talentwargroup”]

It’s so important to be comfortable in those situations where you are a beginner. You know you’re going to fall on your face and everyone’s going to see you fall on your face and know that that’s fine. That’s the stage you’re at and you’re going to grow out of it as long as you’re willing to fall on your face enough times to get back up. As you said, your ego and humility, the better you get at one thing, the harder it is to be a beginner at another thing because everyone is like, “He was the star basketball player. He’s not amazing at football. You’re not amazing at everything.”

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“The better you get at one thing, the harder it is to be a beginner at another thing.”

There’s that judgment and the fear of that judgment and it’s so brave to take that and know that everyone was making fun of you. They’re not being super supportive but to stand up to that and be like, “I don’t care. I’m going to fight through it.” I love how you’ve taken that not just in sports, but you apply that to everything. Is it too early for a transition?

No, we can go.

That’s why transitioning is so hard because your identity is at risk. What you’re talking about is when you’ve been really good at something and everybody in the world knows you as good, then you start something and then now you’re not good. Now there’s some cognitive dissonance there. It’s like, “Am I good or am I not good?”

I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as, “Am I good at this thing or am I not good at that thing?” My identity doesn’t cross into different areas like, “You got to then get good at that thing.” That fear is what paralyzes people and that makes them stop. We know that in science. Neuroscience will teach you we can fight or we can flight but we can also freeze. Sometimes people in life freeze because they’re not sure what to do with that emotion or that feeling that’s inside of them. I always say, “Keep going. Move through it.” There’s going to be a period of a novice.

I teach people all the time, “The climb from novice to master, you’ve got to pay the dues all over again. When you want to go from something else, you’ve got to pay those deuce all over again. You don’t get to carry those deuces over. That’s not the way life works.” I’m encouraged by that because what would life be if we didn’t have to keep earning it? How would we see a person’s character if they didn’t have to keep earning it? That’s the beauty of it. I encourage people to lean into that because that’s how you’re going to find out who you are constantly.

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“The climb from novice to master;
you’ve got to pay the dues all over again.”

There’s such freedom in accepting that you’re a beginner. People respect that, at least in a lot of the sports that I’ve tried because I try a lot of new things and I fall on my face a lot. For me, when people see me fall on my face, they respect getting back up and become willing to help and it becomes so much easier to grow.

You’re teaching. When I go teach people about how to have mental performance or when I’m coaching a person, you’re using all my words. I talk about resilience. If you want to become a master at something new, you’re going to have to climb this new mountain and you’re going to need to be resilient. The first keys of being resilient is to have acceptance for how difficult this is going to be and then courage because courage is the only thing that’s going to get you through the fear, doubt, and pressure.

You have to have the courage to go through these experiences that are challenging then you’re going to have to pop up when you get knocked down. Don’t be surprised by getting knocked down. Expect it. If you’re a resilient person and you have a dream that is rare and pushing you beyond your limits, it’s going to be hard. That’s okay because as long as you go into it knowing that and you’re able to have acceptance, be courageous, and pop up, you’re going to make it.

A lot of what you’re talking about here brings in this concept of emotional strength, physical strength, and mental strength, and how we have a symbiotic relationship that puts focus on all of these things. As you go through different periods of your life, you tend to focus on and prioritize some over others. The goal is to get to the point where you can have all of them in the right place and then be able to almost pull the levers. What do I need in this situation? Now I’m going to put you on the spot as a Doctoral student of Psychology. How do you break those three down? How do you think about the relationship between mental, physical, and emotional strength, and how they need to be applied and when?

This is something I’ve thought about a lot because people often underappreciate the importance that being healthy, and I call it whole health, mental, physical, and emotional health, has in performing at your highest level over and over again. If you’re not healthy, you’re going to see your performance start to decline over time. We know it through injury and pain, but sometimes we don’t associate not being mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy all at once with the performance decrements I can have. I call them the Three Buckets of Wellness. I like to characterize it this way so anybody can think about this for themselves.TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

Imagine you got three buckets in front of you. One says mental health, one says physical health, and one says emotional health. You got to ask yourself like, “How much have I poured into each bucket throughout my life?” For me, I was like, “I have a huge bucket of physical health because somebody was making me work out since I was nine years old. I’ve been pouring into this.” My mental health bucket is a little bit smaller of a bucket for sure. I haven’t put concentrated effort on filling this bucket, but then I had this little red solo cup and that was my emotional bucket.

The wind could come blow that thing over because no one ever taught me what emotion was, how to experience it, how to identify it, and how to understand it. I thought when you want to be elite, you look at yourself in the mirror sometimes. For me, the voice in my head is like, “We’re going to be elite, but how does that fit my elite standard if I haven’t poured into this bucket? Am I going to go through life having this bucket that I haven’t put any concentrated effort in? Absolutely not. I’m going to go learn about emotion.”

When we think about whole health, we have to understand it. We break these up as constructs because we’ve looked at them that way but for the body, the body is leveraging all three at all times. It’s hard to have good physical health if you’re emotional and mental health is not right. It’s hard to have good mental health if your physical and emotional health isn’t right. That’s what I love about neuroscience because it’s going to teach you the way that the cells are all working together. Those 70 trillion cells in your body are not going, “This is mental. This is physical. This is emotional.” They’re saying, “We have a job to do to get this organism out and doing the things that the mind wants it to do.”

It needs to use all three of those and they have to be in cohesion. If we want to show up at our best every day, whether we want to be a CrossFit athlete or have one of those offices in one of those big buildings over there, send emails and tell people what to do, it doesn’t matter. If we don’t have whole health, we’re not showing up as the best version we could possibly be.

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“If we don’t have whole health we’re not showing up as the best version we can possibly be.”

It’s important for me to hear how important all three components are because I know, in my college years, if you told me, “You only have a red solo cup with nothing in it for your emotional health,” I’d be like, “What do I care? I don’t care if I’m emotionally healthy. I want to perform my best.” If you’d told me, “Filling up that cup is going to make you a better athlete,” it might not have been the best motivation, but it would’ve made me a healthier person overall and then improve my performance where I was focused.

It would’ve increased your will because you have this standard like, “I want to be performing at my best all the time.” You’re going to do whatever it takes. You’re going to go do pull-ups until your shoulder gives out. You’re going to go run until your ankles give way because you’ve made this commitment to yourself to be your best version.

When you realize that being emotionally healthy and having emotional intelligence is so critical for your performance, now you’re like, “Where am I going to go to get good at that? How do I take this red solo cup and start pouring into it until now this becomes a big bucket? Can I get it to be the same size as the mental and physical bucket?” Now you’re going to start going and looking for those resources and going to learn about those things.

Once you take this journey into understanding emotion and you have better insight into who you are and why you feel the way you feel, you get compassion. If you can’t recognize that you have these emotions, then you can’t recognize them in another person. The moment you go, “That hurt my feelings. That made me angry. I was afraid in that moment,” you see that humanity in everyone.

[bctt tweet=”Once you understand your own emotions, you can be compassionate to others.” username=”talentwargroup”]

You go, “Everybody in this park right now has feelings and they’re happening because of these events in life. How can I support them in that because I know that I need to be supported in that?” That creates the humanity and the compassion that we know will pay dividends for everybody, especially when you think about we’re all in this together.

Talk about training the brain. That was something you had brought up and discussed because in order to be able to effectively do what you’re talking about, we put a lot of folks down. We know how to train the body but how do we sit down and say, “I got to train my brain in these things to effectively operate and do the things that you’re talking about?”

One of the worlds that I’m serving now is as a Cofounder and Chief Innovative Health and Performance Officer for a company called NESTRE. That’s what we wake up every day to do. We want to leverage science and technology in a way where we can help people bring fitness and health to their brain because we haven’t done it before. Sometimes I’m like, “I want more people to know about this.” It’s like, “That’s easy.”

Humans never knew that we were going to be able to train our bodies. We started doing that decades ago. We’ve been here for a long time. Many years ago, somebody was like, “Maybe we should lift weights,” then all these athlete coaches were like, “Absolutely not. You don’t take my athletes in there to lift weights. That’s going to slow them down and make them big and bulky.”TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

Nebraska started doing it and they started winning championships. Now every sport has a strength program. We went, “There’s a lot of value if you expose the body to a structured rigor.” That’s how you’re going to get the most out of that person. We’ve never done that for the brain and the mind. if you’re like me and you spend all this time in research, psychology, and neuroscience, you start to see that we’re talking about what we can do with cognitive training.

We’re talking about what would happen if we intentionally tried to expose the brain and mind to conditions that were going to make it more in the way we want it to be. How do we optimize that? In NESTRE, that’s what we’re about. We’re trying to find what are the things that we can do to help give people cognitive solutions. Do you want better attention? Jessie, would that be great? Fran, would you like better memory? Do you want to be able to recall things quickly?

A lot of people will tell you that.

How many reps of training have you gotten in?

I don’t know. We’re not talking about picking a subject and studying a subject or learning about Math or Science. We’re talking about sets, reps, and games that are going to specifically train your brain for new skills.

That’s what we’re doing in NESTRE. We’re trying to tell the world that we’re able to do this now. We can cognitively train a person. We have a couple of different solutions. We have our mindset profile, which is cool. That allows people to understand, “What are my cognitive preferences? How do I prefer my environment?” That’s giving you immediate insight to let you know about this mystery that’s in our own black box. We’re able to provide somebody with an assessment that takes 10 to 15 minutes. We also have an app where you’re able to go in there and do cognitive training and mental framing to help you understand and learn how to stack wins in your everyday environment.

Now you’re turning on these physiological mechanisms in your brain that make you go, “I want to get after it more,” because now you’ve got clear on what you want to do. We have our in-person training where we’re able to take people to scan their brains and show them their neural networks. It’s like, “This is what your attention network looks like, Jessie. This is what your memory network looks like. This is what your executive function looks like. How much do you want to commit to making these better?” and show you then how it’s responding through training.

That’s intentionally trying to leverage technology and science to make the brain operate at its best. We’re going to get there. This is just the beginning. NESTRE is one of the companies that says, “We know we can do it. Let’s go build it into a company and for people so that we can have this level of fitness that all these athletes here are doing.” It came from consistent reps. How many times do you think the athletes here train a day?

They train a considerable amount.

Constantly, and that’s how they got the most out of their physical performance. If you want to get the most out of your mental performance, you got to ask yourself how many times are you training. The question is, “Where am I going to train and what am I going to do?” That’s what you let scientists and people that are studying people do.

That’s what we do at NESTRE. We work with a lot of high-level athletes and we’re really growing this company. We’re a startup so we’re down here at the bottom of this mountain and we’re going to climb it. We want to give people access to tools that are going to help them better understand the way their mind works and also give them the ability to train. When you start letting people train consistent focus reps, you guys both know what the result is.

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“We want to give people access to tools that are gonna help them better understand the way their mind works.”

How do I start if I wanted to join right now, which I do? What does that look like? What does the training look like? Do you have to test first?

It’s important to see how somebody initially comes in and what level they’re at. We have an app. It’s on the Apple Store and Google Play Store. The subscription is $69.99 if you go over twelve months and $9.99 if you do it per month. The moment you log into the app, it’s going to say, “Here’s our mindset profile assessment.” You’re going to take twenty questions and we’re going to tell you about your cognitive preferences. From there, we’re going to recommend training for you based on what you decided was important. We have cognitive training games.

We have our Activate Series, where you can hear from elite-level athletes on how they prepared for their day and how they got their minds right. We also have mental framing training that allows you to focus on what the wins and losses are in my environment. How do I pay less attention to the losses and focus on these wins so that I’m feeling better? I’m chasing the things that I want with a different level of passion and energy. That’s how anybody uses it through the app. We also have our location in Lake Nona. Have you ever heard of Lake Nona?


You guys got to go to Lake Nona sometime.

Sounds like an invite to me.

That’s where we do our in-person brain training, and then we’re able to wire people up with an EEG cap. They’ve been using standard and science for decades as well. We’re able to show you your brain, your neural networks, and how they’re functioning because we do a brain scan and then we can give you the ability to train.

That gives you more insight into what you should be training than taking the quiz on the phone.

It’s different because we were able to scan your brain and we’re able to give you information on, “This is how your brain is functioning now.” It’s like when I went in there and they were like, “What’s going on? Your chronic pain network is high. It looks hyperactive.” I’m like, “How did you know?” My knee has been hurting because it was cold and meniscus problems had locked up on me.

They were like, “We need to reduce the activation on this network to bring it down to this optimal range. We can do that for mood, attention, and anxiety.” When you’re able to visualize these neural networks and see, “I could be getting more out of my executive function. I want that.” We’re able to give people the ability to train. it’s exciting. We love what we’re doing and we continue to grow.

When you say, “Get more out of your executive function,” what is that in real life? What skills am I going to get better at? Where am I saving time or remembering more things?

Executive function is judgment planning and decision making, These are the things in this prefrontal cortex that really separates us from everything else. This is going to allow you to do that at a greater level. Think about what your body would be if you hadn’t trained it before. Imagine what training has done and what it’s allowed you to do. We want to give people access to do that for the brain because you’re able to train your brain like for us, when we go into a season, we do all our weight tests. When you see your numbers, you might be like, “I like that number.” “I do not like that number. I’m going to be in here working on that.”

We’re able to do that with twenty neural networks. You’ll be able to see where you’re at and you’ll be like, “That’s at 80. That’s at 75. I’m going to be at 90s.” Through repetition and training, we’re going to be able to help you improve in those areas. That’s why I’m most excited about the field of cognitive training because I’m in here reading research articles all the time going, “More people know about this.” It’s going to get out and more people are going to start doing it. It’s cool that, as people, we’ve now developed this ability to train the brain. It’s exciting to be a part of this new frontier.

When I have a conversation, I could remember more of it and I’ll understand more complicated things.

Memory is some of the things that we can help. We all have a network that allows us to be able to remember things. Memory is a complicated process. We’re not going to get into it, but say you want to recall things. One of our senior advisors came to us, Leigh Steinberg. He’s an agent. He was saying, “I’m getting older in life. I used to be able to walk up to people and I knew everybody’s names. If what you guys are doing can help me with that, I’m coming on board.”TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

He spent a week with us up in Orlando and he did one of our one-week intensives. He’s training his brain. Two weeks later, he calls us and he goes, “I can remember names. I got it back. How do I come on board? I want to work with you guys.” These are the results we’ve seen. Sometimes, I talk to the people that we train.

We had a young lady. She was 16 or 17 and she had several concussions from playing lacrosse. I’m a scientist. I want to know, “How did the brain training help you?” She’s like, “My personality got better.” I was like, “Personality? I didn’t know if we were training personality.” Somebody asked some follow-up questions, “What do you mean by that?” She was like, “When I had these concussions, I wasn’t able to go to school. I was in constant pain, headache, and sitting in a dark room. My parents felt like they lost me, but then I started training. Now I can sit through a whole day of school, I come out of my room, and I’m interacting with friends again. My parents are elated.”

Those are the stories you hear and you go, “This is what brain training did to materially change the way a person is showing up every day in life.” I then meet her parents and her dad was like, “We almost gave up. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We thought we lost our daughter as a teenager to concussions, but now she’s better. I’m going to tell anybody I can tell. I’m a supporter of you guys and what you’re doing.” We have stories like that. They give me continued passion and purpose to keep building and keep letting people know that the mind and the brain are important and what we’ve done to physically train humans. What I’ve seen and what we’re all seeing here, we can do for the mind and brain as well now.

You said there were five keys to success. Can you go over them real quick?

Absolutely. What I found worked for me and for some of the highest performers that I’ve ever been around, I’m talking about Hall of Fame guys, is commitment. I always say, “You start with commitment. You know that it doesn’t matter where you start. Anything you want to do, you can do it. You go to discipline, then you go to guidance, quality support, and resilience.”TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

That’s what I teach a lot of. I’m teaching people how to leverage those five words. It’s easy to say five words but teaching people how to apply them to their day-to-day life has been powerful for me and the people that I’ve helped. It’s exciting to continue to teach people how to be high performers in their own life by leveraging the words that you can fit on one hand.

You want to give them the tools and I think that’s what you’re doing. You’ve taken all experience that you’ve had and you’ve shown that. You can take that and that becomes a foundation, even though at every step that you’ve taken, you’ve had to essentially start over and start at that bottom. When you make that commitment, you see that vision, you set that standard, and then you execute on that vision every single day. You don’t compromise that standard. You’re going to find success in the next thing that you do.

One of the reasons why was when I was in graduate school. I was like, “How do I combine the experiences I’ve had in sports with what I’m learning now? I got to find a way to put these things together. Let me try to create a system because it doesn’t matter if I have it in my head. It has to be something I can teach. It has to be something that’s practical enough that anybody can do.” One of the things I learned from studying Psychology is the value of quality support. We all have an idea of how having good supportive people around us could be helpful. If I asked you right now, Jessie, how do you define a supportive friend? How would you define that?

I’m not sure how I would define that.

That’s hard. It’s like, “How would I define it?” I’m thinking this in my head. I’m like, “You’re studying Psychology. Go in and research and find out.” I had to say, “What is a quick way that I could help Jessie know how to know if you’re friends, the people in your family, and the people you have around you are supportive? Let me check the research and see what it says.” One of the things I found that you can use to determine if the support is quality or not is who’s the attentive listener. We often don’t value how important it is to have a person in your life listens to you, sit there, and hear you.

We get to express and feel known. That’s key for helping a human feel like they have support in their life. Who do you go to that gives you words of belief? Many people I talked to tell me about their dream and they’re like, “The people around me don’t think I can do it.” That’s not quality support. If you’re sharing what you want to do, and your dreams, and they’re not giving you words of belief, that support is not quality. The person that gives you quality support is a person that speaks belief into you. Who do you go to for an act of kindness?

I would not be here on this stage if there weren’t thousands of acts of kindness done for me. I would never have made it to one high school practice if Coach Mac didn’t come to my house, picked me up, and dropped me off because my parents were too busy working for me to go to practice. My entire life course would’ve been changed if Coach Mac wasn’t saying, “I’m going to give you an act of kindness every day.” If you have enough humility to realize, so many people have given me acts of kindness throughout my life. I didn’t get here on my own.

The last one is quality time. If you’re building something and you have a big dream that you’re chasing, you’re going to need to get away from it for a while. Who do you go to where it feels chill? None of that matters. Getting a safety bubble away from all that, you spend quality time. For a lot of people, it’s like, “I hang out with my kids.” They don’t care if dad is a former Pro Bowler or if he’s going to graduate school. I wanted to play in the pool. Those are quality time.

I wanted to give people something that they could use to identify who’s the quality support in their life. Spend time with the people that you can have quality time with, give you words of belief, are attentive listeners, and then give you acts of kindness. That’s quality support. That’s going to give you a boost onto what you’re trying to achieve. In those 5 keys of success, 2 of them are about how hard you work. That’s commitment and discipline. That’s all on you. No one can do that for you.

Guidance and quality support are  others because if you’re going to go climb a big mountain, you have a big dream, and you want to change your life in the course of it, you’re not going to do it on your own. You’re going to need your work ethic, your commitment, and others. The last part, Jessie, we talked about is resilience. How do you persevere when life brings you the inevitable tough time?

The bigger your dream, the more tough times that are going to come. If you’re able to do all five of those things consistently on a daily basis, I promise you, you’re going to make it to the top of the mountain you’re climbing. It’s going to be great. When you sit up at the top of the mountain, you look out and you’re like, “I did it.” I want everybody to have that feeling.

They’re going to give us the hook here in a minute, but last question and this is a test question. Are you ready? The Jedburgs in World War II had to do three things as foundational and core tasks. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. If they did these three things with utmost precision, then they could put their focus on more complex challenges that came their way, primarily arming the French resistance and defeating the Germans. What are the three things that you do every day to set the conditions in your world for your success as core foundational habits?

I’m not going to say the five keys to success. I usually start my mornings off with dreaming and not lucid dreaming. Sit there with yourself in the morning before you get out of bed and go, “What are all the things that I wish I could be doing? If there were no conditions and no limits, what are those things?” We live in a world now where we don’t allow ourselves a dream anymore. I like history and philosophy. Those people sat around, they allowed themselves to dream.TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

When I wake up in the morning, I let my mind go where it wants to go and think about all the things that have meaning to me and would be exciting for me to do without going, “Is that possible?” The other thing I do is I don’t make any excuses. If I’ve set a standard, it has to get done and no excuses. I don’t procrastinate. Not procrastinating always allows you to be ahead of things when you finish your day knowing that, “I didn’t push all this stuff to the next day.”

For me, it’s hard to balance building startup companies, being a dad, and trying to work on getting a Doctoral degree, so I can’t procrastinate. I get ahead of everything. I turn in that paper a week early and the teacher’s like, “You have another week.” I’m like, “Yeah but I don’t want it on my mind. I need to get it off my mind now.” Those are probably the three things I do. I allow myself to dream, I never make excuses, and I don’t procrastinate.

Those are good.

We’ve had some good ones. I love those three.

Dreaming in the morning, that’s right when you wake up is when your brain is the most flexible and creative, right?

For me. Some people might wake up in the morning and they might be the most stressed they are for the day because they’ve got all these things that they know they have to do it. If they procrastinated, they know they’re behind. Every person has a time in the day when your mind starts to wander and drift. Mindfulness and meditation have been like, “Never let your mind wander.” If you’re hearing that, heard that over and over now.

I’m like, “Why not? Why not let it do sometimes?” Don’t let it do it when I’m trying to give you guys my attention or if I’m in class. Sometimes you’re driving, cut the music and the radio off, and see what comes up if we’re not bombarding ourselves with all these other stimuli. For me, in the morning, there’s no TV on. The phone is not ringing yet. It’s not time to get to emails. I have the most space to allow my mind to dream.

I’ve been working on that a little bit lately. I had been in the habit of always having either on a good day educational YouTube videos, listening, and always having stuff coming into my brain. Sometimes, when I’m trying to meditate or when I’m riding my bike, my brain wanders into almost this movie that I’m watching being like, “That’s interesting.” It’s been satisfying and eye-opening rather than getting that from an outside source.

The amount of things that spontaneously pop up, our brain works that way. We don’t think that we want this next thought to come. It just comes. What happens if you take the guardrails off of that and you say, “I’m allowing anything to come up.” One thing I like to encourage people to do is give your miracles a chance to happen. How can your miracles happen if you never allowed yourself to dream? How do you know what that miracle would look like? What would it be?

TJP - E95 Julius Thomas, Founder of Mastery Development, Co-Founder of NESTRE, 2x NFL Pro Bowl Tight End

“Give your miracles a chance to happen.”

I would lay in bed and think, “This college basketball thing is all right, but I think you could be a pro football player.” You’re talking to yourself. I had to allow that to keep coming into my mind. One day I was like, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to go tell that coach, ‘Can I come out?’” What if I never did that? What if I never allowed myself to dream that I could play in the NFL? I would’ve never done it. I don’t know what I would’ve been doing. My athletic career would’ve ended after college.

I would’ve probably been fine but what about the next dream? I was like, “I want to help people.” I had to create a new passion and a new purpose in my life from what I was as an athlete and say, “Maybe I’ll try and go get a Doctorate. I could do it.” The first time you never go with it though. If you let yourself dream it over and over again, then one day you’ll be like, “Why not?”

Dreams put us on this stage here, yours, Jessie’s, and mine. It’s been an honor to sit here with you. Thank you so much for coming down and talking to us. This event has been awesome. Thank you so much, Julius.

Thank you guys for having me.

Thank you.


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